HolidayBuyer's Guide

Touch screens with a kick

Touchy-feely peripheral maker Immersion introduced a new technology to help put some life into next-generation touch screens.

At the Society for Information Display Symposium in Boston this week, the company introduced its TouchSense technology for flat panel displays. The effect called haptic feedback gives the screen a little give and take when pushed. Haptic technology can be as simple as the feel of a computer keyboard or as sophisticated as those in virtual-reality systems.

As the San Jose, Calif.-based company describes it... "Instead of just feeling the hard, unresponsive touch screen surface, users perceive that buttons depress and release, just as physical buttons and switches do... such as when clicking a computer mouse, pushing a button, or depressing a membrane switch."

Touching a screen sets off a series of analog signals that result in a response to the screen location where contact was made. Immersion said the vibro-tactile effect can be varied for different frequencies, waveforms, magnitudes and durations.

TouchSense first debuted in 1996 with Immersion's gaming system peripherals. Since then, the company said it has managed to get that old feedback feeling into medical simulation systems; rotary controls in cars from BMW, Rolls Royce, and Volkswagen; and mobile phones from Samsung.

Immersion said the new touch screen technology will be suitable for testing in June. Development kits are due out in the fall.